ong gone are the days where farming was the predominant career, nearly forcing parents to have several children in a short amount of time to help with the farm labor. With that in the distant past, couples are getting married later and focusing on their personal careers before even considering having a family. The cost of living has also increased, and this coupled with the growing demands of work life and growing costs of healthcare means that family planning isn’t as clear cut as it once was. 

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, and Generation Z (normally shortened to Gen Z) includes kids who were born between 1996-early 2010s. Trends in their family planning are not that different, but Gen Z families are on track to be more reflective of the current financial crisis, as well as changing what families look like. Career focused, both Millennial and Gen Z generations favor delaying having a family over starting to have kids early. The thought process behind this is quite simple; having kids can throw a wrench in job planning and financial security, especially as more and more women are holding higher-up positions and unable to just quit their jobs to focus on domestic duties.

It’s a tough choice, having kids or not having kids, in the current state of the world and with so much more to consider than that of past generations. With job and financial stress on the rise, newer generations must make some tough choices. An important factor that hasn’t changed in our biological makeup is that the prime age for fertility and pregnancy is still the early 20s. With the trend of getting married later in life and the hard choices that have to be made before getting pregnant, it is no wonder that Millennials and Gen Z’ers have changed the way our society plans for a family. 

Here’s some key info highlighted in this article:

  • The trends in Millennials vs Gen Z’ers
  • The reasonings for the delay in having a family
  • What the future holds for what families will look like
Bride and groom have their first kiss.
The average age of marriage is increasing steadily as new generations prioritize school and jobs over marriage. 

Trends in Family Planning

The difference isn’t that significant, but the extremely expensive cost of living has played a role in Gen Z parenting and family planning. 

Millennial Family Planning

The moment a couple gets married, older generations sometimes expect the same attitude towards having kids that they did when they got married. Newlywed Millennials are bombarded with the typical question, “When are you gonna start having kids?” In the past few generations, like the Baby Boomers and Generation X, it was expected and quite common for newly married heterosexual couples to start trying to have a baby the moment they were officially pronounced husband and wife. But the early-child bearing age has been cast aside to the past, and the new trend is not only getting married later, but also delaying having children. 

For Millennial women, the average age of first-time mothers is 26, up from 21 in the prior generation of women. The same increase happened in fathers, going from 27 to 31. There are a lot of factors that contribute to this age increase, but the most common reason is the prioritization of career growth over family growth. Millennials are currently the most educated generation, growing from generations where women getting a higher education was uncommon, and women holding important roles in their careers was even more so. With the majority of millennials being college or trade educated, it is no surprise that they factor their careers the most when it comes to family planning. 

Gen Z Family Planning

While most of the reasons why Millennials are delaying having a family is shared by Gen Z, there seems to be an increase in delaying having a family over issues with the current political climate. Similar to Millennials, Gen Z’ers usually attend a 2 or 4-year degree program right outside of high school, focusing on obtaining an education and then a job instead of looking for a spouse and wanting to start having kids. But there is also the reasoning that financial stress has never been so high, with these generations facing more college debt than ever before and the cost of living steadily increasing. With that in the forefront of their decision-making considerations, most Gen Z’ers are opting to go child-free. 

What Guides Their Decisions

Deciding whether or not to have kids is an incredibly involved decision. 

Graduating class throw their caps in the air.
Millennials and Gen Z’ers are the most in debt generations ever because of the rising price tag of a college degree. 

Career Focused

The growing emphasis on careers in both men and women means that this is a priority when considering whether or not to have kids. For Millennials and Gen Z’ers, their college degrees are one of the biggest expenses they’ll ever have. The average cost of a college bachelor’s degree nowadays is anywhere from $100,000 to over $400,000 for private, out-of-state institutions. With such a high value, their degrees and the jobs they earn by obtaining that degree can be a much bigger priority than having kids. 

With the increasing popularity of Millennials and Gen Z’ers having college degrees and thus, holding full time positions, having kids just isn’t as much of a priority as it was for previous generations. Career growth is also a priority for both men and women, and having to take extended leaves for maternity leave and the like can stunt growth and sometimes strain work relationships. 

Financial Stress

Unsurprisingly, financial stress is one of the biggest factors that Millennials and Gen Z’ers consider when making the choice about whether or not to start a family. In addition to being under crippling debt, the cost of living has never been so high, and it is only going up. Children are expensive, not only the pregnancy costs but also the medical care needed for birth and potential health issues with the mother or baby post-birth. Healthcare costs are in crisis mode in the US, only further turning away these generations from choosing to have kids. The cost of children even well past the point of birth and infant-hood isn’t getting any cheaper, either!

With mortgage payments, student loan debt, and having to work 40+ hours a week, the idea of retiring later in life because of the added financial stress of children just isn’t worth it anymore. Several Gen Z’ers report prioritizing early retirement over having kids, as the idea of working full time for several decades isn’t appealing. 

The Future of Families

Future families will look entirely different than those of past generations. 

A mother and father hold their baby son and toddler daughters hand as they walk through a forest.
The ever-evolving and drastically different political climate has certainly played a role in what families look like now.

Family Life

In the up and coming years, families won’t look the way they did just a couple decades ago. Interracial couples are becoming more common than same-race couples, as well as more LGBTQIA+ couples adopting and fostering children or using a surrogate. With Millennials and Gen Z’ers also leaving their childhood homes later in life, parents with young children are much older than they used to be. There has been a 10% decrease in couples living with their spouse and children compared to later generations at the same age, signifying that couples are waiting longer to get married and have children, if they decide to have children at all. Not only that, but the amount of children that couples are having has also significantly decreased to an average of less than 2 children per household. 

Child Upbringing

With significant political changes in recent years, such as increased environmental awareness and important discussions about gender binaries, the approach to raising children in this day and age has drastically changed. Gender-neutral parenting, which means raising children without strict gender norms and encouraging them to wear all colors, play with all toys, and using gender-neutral language, has grown in popularity as well. More and more parents are choosing to raise their children in a more gender-inclusive environment in the wake of recent research surrounding gender identities and social constructs of gender. 

Cultural shifts and an increased focus on getting a higher education, in addition to rising costs of living and prioritized career growth, Millennials and Gen Z’ers are changing the way families are planned and decisions regarding having kids are approached. With growing concern over finances, more couples are opting to delay having children or not having them at all because of the high cost of children and healthcare. Even more so, couples are getting married later in life and fostering their own educational and career goals, leaving family planning and child-bearing in the rearview mirror. The changes are significantly notable from past generations, which comes as no surprise as cultural and societal shifts mean family planning shifts as well. 

Aug 20, 2021